The Curious Case of Eutychus (a meditation)

You ever been in church, Sunday school, Bible study, or a conference and the speaker seemed to drone on and on as your eyes grew heavier and heavier? We’ve all had those moments where we knew we should be interested in a topic no matter who is speaking, yet we just can’t seem to stay awake.

This very thing happened to Eutychus, a young man from Troas who gathered with others in a house to fellowship and listen to Paul give one of his final talks before being arrested in Jerusalem. That evening Eutychus sat near a window. Maybe it was the only spot for him or maybe he enjoyed the breeze and hoped it kept his eyes open. Whatever his reason as “Paul prolonged his speech until midnight”, Eutychus “sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer” (Acts 20:7-9).

As he wrote, Luke seems to have given Eutychus some sympathy noting twice in three verses how Paul talked and talked. In 20:8, Luke also mentioned the many lamps in the room. Perhaps where the young man was seated the gasses from the lamps concentrated and helped lull him into a slumber.

Whatever the cause, Eutychus’ position soon became a threat. Having fallen asleep near the window, he slipped out and fell three stories to his death (20:9).

But then something miraculous happened, as was often the case where Paul or the other apostle went and proclaimed the word. Paul went out, took the young man into his arms, and life returned to him. Having a hand in the miracle that saw a boy pulled back from the grip of death, what did Paul then do?—he went upstairs, broke bread and ate, and then “conversed with them a long while until daybreak” (20:11).

The curious case of Eutychus: he died, Paul brought him back to life, and then Paul went on like nothing strange had happened.

Others realized the miracle. The last verse we read of this young man says, “And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted” (20:12). Yet Paul saw the need not to celebrate the miracle but rather to eat a midnight dinner and then talk more about the One who empowered the miracle.

Sometimes we so long for the miraculous that we miss seeing the Miracle Giver. We say, “If only God would show me a sign!” And we forget that the Father gave us Jesus who kicked down the door of death for all who will believe in him and that every passage of our scripture points us to him.

As Paul demonstrated for us and for them, his word is the most important thing God has given us. Miracles can point to Jesus, but it is his word that brings us to life in him (John 6:68, 1 Peter 1:23-25).

So we can pray for miracles, but let us be steadfast in God’s word.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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